The First in the Nation primary is just 34 days away, and if you ask the professional campaign flaks, GOP insiders, and political pundits who make up the Granite State Guru*, you’ll hear nothing but praise for Nikki Haley.
“She’s getting better on the stump every day,” one said.
“The Sununu endorsement has gone as well as Sununu and Nikki could have hoped. Got a lot of attention. All the voters who are moving are moving to Haley,” another added.
But what you won’t hear much of is confidence that Haley can crack the code to get Trump fans to abandon the incumbent and give her a win in New Hampshire.
Here is the Granite State Guru’s current view of the First in the Nation GOP primary:
- Trump: 46%
- Haley: 30%
- Christie: 9%
- DeSantis 9%
- Vivek 4%
A CBS News poll released Sunday put Haley at 29 percent, 15 points behind Trump at 44 percent. It was the first RCP poll this year to give Trump less than a 20-point lead in the Granite State.
The more Trump-friendly GOP insiders argue Haley’s just moving the deck chairs on the anti-Trump Titanic. There just aren’t enough votes for Haley to get past him.
“The 4,000-person Trump rally [at UNH] is a reminder not enough voters are moving for her to win here. Most Rs are not moving. They are sticking with Trump,” one GOP pro said.
The anti-Trump activists admit a Haley win in New Hampshire is a longshot, but they believe it is doable.
“There is still room for Haley to grow, and some folks are just now starting to pay attention,” one Republican said.
On the latest episode of the NHJournal podcast, former state GOP chairman Fergus Cullen said Haley may or may not win in New Hampshire, but she “can do well enough to get out of New Hampshire and go to South Carolina for a head-to-head contest with Trump.” He believes there are only two tickets out of New Hampshire, particularly if Christie doesn’t pull off a surprise.
As for that one-on-one in the Palmetto State, Cullen made no predictions. “Will she win? Will she lose? I don’t know. But she’ll have a shot.”
Another point of agreement among the GOP insiders: Sununu’s endorsement has been much more impactful than Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ endorsement of Gov. Ron DeSantis on November 7. DeSantis’ RealClearPolitics poll average in Iowa was 17 percent, 30 points below Trump’s 47 percent. Since the endorsement, his RCP average is now 19 percent, while Trump’s is up to 51 percent. Haley’s right behind at 16 percent.
“Sununu is the big dog,” one GOP insider said. “When he speaks, New Hampshire listens and respects him. Now it’s up to Nikki to take it and run.”
UNH Professor Dante Scala said nobody should be surprised by the impact of Sununu’s endorsement.
“The CBS poll suggests Sununu’s endorsement has added to Haley’s momentum exactly where you would expect: among moderate Republicans and independents.”
And what about DeSantis?
“The odds of a complete DeSantis crash and him dropping out of the race before New Hampshire have gone up, but I think he sees it through.”
One candidate who has completely disappeared from the First in the Nation conversation: entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy — despite his 7.8 percent RCP average being close to his all-time high.
“How many more beatings from Nikki Haley can Vivek take?” one GOP insider quipped.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: The Granite State Guru is an aggregation of ratings and commentary from about a dozen New Hampshire political professionals, campaign insiders, GOP activists, and political pundits.